Saturday, April 23, 2016

Aspects of State Power (1966)

Editorial from the February 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

“The State is the people" is a popular misconception that lives on. It is still widely held that the State embodies the whole community. The illusion is fostered that it is “our” country, “our” government, “our” balance of payment crisis.

In fact the country is owned by a privileged minority. Exports are their problem. Inevitably the government administers their interests through control of the state machine.

The State is the armed forces, the police, the judiciary, the prisons. These exist to defend and maintain private property. The State also administers the Post Office, schools, hospitals, railways, etc.

Over the past hundred years government has grown enormously. Today it is accepted that the government will be directly concerned in every aspect of social and economic life. At the same time its power is more centralised.

This is not to say that the government can exercise its power in an arbitrary way. On the contrary government today must he tuned in with public opinion. Never before has the success of a politician been so dependent on his saying the right thing at the right time. Election programmes are largely the product of advertising men. This is partly why the manifestos of Labour and Tory parties hardly differ. In practice government policies bear little relation to electoral promises.

The Labour Party sees the state machine as an instrument of social progress provided they control it. The illusion of nationalisation as an egalitarian system of ownership and distribution is now obvious by bitter experience. Under Labour as well as Tory governments state controlled industry is run in the interests of the capitalist class.

Nationally the State protects the interests of capitalism, and in doing so frequently has to over-ride sectional capitalist interests.

Two aspects of state administration which concern most people are education and health. The State cannot provide a proper education system because it is primarily concerned to train workers. Capitalist society creates more ill health than doctors and nurses can cope with. What the State provides is limited by the economics of a society that is concerned more for profits than for people.

Against anti-parliamentarianism (1966)

From the January 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

To establish Socialism, the working class must organise to win control of the state and turn it from the instrument of oppression which it is today into the agent of their emancipation. This principle asserts the conscious, majority, political nature of the socialist revolution.

The State is the public power of coercion and consists of the armed forces, law courts, prisons and police. Today the State is used by the capitalist class to maintain their dominant social position in a society based on the forcible exclusion of the majority from the means of production.

The first step in the evolution of the modern State was the centralisation of the means of coercion in the hands of Kings and their officials. As the capitalist class grew economically stronger they began to struggle to bring the State under their control. In Britain their weapon in this struggle was Parliament. This struggle to bring the Slate under parliamentary control was finally won with the expulsion of James II in 1688.

In Britain Parliament is the instrument by which the capitalist class control the State. Parliament makes the laws which the State must try to enforce. Thus the State is not an independent agent but is more or less effectively controlled by the capitalist class through representative institutions. The capitalist class does not rule directly. The parliamentary parties, their leaders and members, represent the capitalist class and actually manage their common affairs. The second function of Parliament for capitalism is in the debating and settling of common affairs. For capitalism is an ever-changing system, and change demands adjustments elsewhere. It is the task of the capitalist political parties to draw attention to, and take up, the problems at home and abroad which arise in this way. Party politics is the attempt to find solutions to these problems. Leaving the solutions to the free play of political forces has proved a much better method, as far as capitalism is concerned, than the Absolutist and Bureaucratic methods of the political regimes it overthrew.

Originally Parliament was an exclusive body with the franchise restricted to property owners but the struggle of the working class has forced the extension of the franchise to property-less elements also. The vote is an unqualified gain to the working class. It is something which was won by struggle and which could not be taken away without a struggle. It is a potential class weapon. In Britain the working class have come to appreciate the importance of having the vote, but not yet of how to use it to serve their own interests. But having the vote is itself a restraining influence on the capitalist class and the extent to which they can use the State against the working class.

The next step in the evolution of working class understanding is to use their votes to gain control of the State and turn it into the agent of their emancipation. To do this they most organise as an uncompromisingly Socialist political party. Working class power will be used to dispossess the capitalist class of their privileged social position. When the working class win State power there will be no question of forming a “socialist government.” Like the capitalist class the working class can only control the State through representative institutions; those who are actually sent to the scat of power will go as delegates, they will not be in a position to use the State against the socialist majority who sent them any more than the State officials of today could for long declare their independence of capitalist control. With the establishment of Socialist society will disappear the conditions for a State power of coercion; in its place will be an administration.

A number of objections have been put against this position of the Socialist Party for the most part based on experiences and conditions where both the capitalist class and working class were weak.

Anarchist anti-political propaganda frequently refers to Parliament as a “facade” or a “cypher”; Ministers are just “puppets”; somewhere behind the facade is the “real seat of power.” These are arguments anarchists have been using for years under all conditions. Their use today ignores the fact that the struggles of both the capitalist class and the working class have altered political conditions from when these dogmas were first formulated. For the view of Parliament as a facade, having no control over the State, does correspond to the reality of the pre-World War I Empires of Germany, Russia and Austro-Hungary. Here pressure had led to the establishment of elected assemblies, but these assemblies had no real power. The Emperors and their officials still directly controlled the State. Parliament was a facade, Ministers were puppets, the real seat of power did lie elsewhere. One of the early German Socialists in a famous phrase described one such assembly as “the fig-leaf of Absolutism.”

But to suggest, as anarchists do, that a modern Parliament can be compared to the Duma of Tsarist Russia or the Reichstag of Imperial Germany is just plain nonsense. In Britain Parliament controls the State; this is how the capitalist class rule. It is alright to say, “It doesn’t matter who gets in, the capitalists always rule,” but how do they rule? In fact, they rule through Parliament; the anarchists have apparently found some alternative and secret capitalist organisation for controlling the State. This is absurd, and dangerous, as it leads workers to underestimate the power of the vote.

Other critics admit the need for winning political power but argue that as the Socialist movement grows the capitalist class will suspend Parliament and unleash Fascism. First let us consider the suspension of Parliament. For the capitalist class this would mean the dissolution of the organisation whereby they control the State; they could be abdicating power to a group over which they would have little or no control. In the second place it would lead to confusion and disorder, with the breaking up of established ways of settling common problems. Thus the suspension of Parliament, and the consequent abdication of political power, would be a desperate act.

Once the Fascists were in power parliamentary institutions were smashed; and voting and trade union liberties suppressed. Compared with parliamentary rule Fascism was a step backwards. It is true that some capitalists were prepared to support such movements, and so were the working class. On the Continent the working class have been more violent which is often taken as a sign of their being more “revolutionary.” But in fact it means just the opposite: violence is a sign of the immaturity of a working class as it means they are too weak, to restrain anti-democratic elements.

Fascism did not arise as a counter to the Socialist movement (though it was to a large extent a means of disciplining an unruly working class). In Britain the capitalist class could not suspend Parliament without the support of the working class. In fact, the growth of the Socialist movement itself will change political and social conditions; it will be a restraining influence on the capitalist class rather than a provocation to violence.

A third anti-parliamentary argument uses as evidence the experience of reformist governments like the various British Labour Party governments, the Social Democratic governments of pre-Hitler Germany and the Popular Front government of Leon Blum in France in 1936. From these the lesson is drawn of “the uselessness of the State machinery for the purposes of the proletarian revolution.” In actual fact, however, such governments fail not because they attempt to use political means to benefit the working class, but because what they can do in this respect is severely limited by the basis on which they sought power and by the workings of the capitalist system. Mere political decrees cannot overcome economic forces. Capitalism can only be overthrown by the determined struggle of a Socialist working class. Reform parties, however, do not have such support behind them hence their attempts to make capitalism benefit the working class by parliamentary means are doomed to failure from the start. The reason for this is not because the government is “torpedoed by the bureaucracy” or by financiers but because capitalism cannot be made to work in the interests of the working class. There are things that Parliament and political power can do and there are things they cannot do. Parliament does control the State; it does not control the economic forces that are capitalism. The working class doesn’t need political power to form a government and try to run capitalism but to force the capitalist class to surrender their privileges. The experience of non-socialist, reformist. political action is no argument against the conscious, majority, political action for Socialism.
Adam Buick

Marx on the power of knowledge: the control of nature: socialism (1979)

From the October 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard
Nature builds no machines, no locomotives, railways, electric telegraphs, self-acting mules. These are products of human industry; natural material transformed into organs of the human will over nature, of human participation on nature. They are organs of the human brain, created by the human hand; the power of knowledge objectified. The development of fixed capital indicates to what degree general social knowledge has become a direct force of production and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself has come under the control of the General intellect and been transformed in accordance with it.
  To what degree the powers of social production have been produced, not only in the form of knowledge, but also as immediate organs of social practice, of the real life process.
(The Making of Marx's Capital, p.706.)

Labour under illusions (1979)

From the October 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

Herbert Morrison once said that "Socialism is what the Labour Party does while in office". On the basis of such a definition, it is little wonder that after six doses of Labour's ’socialism’, very many workers are anti-’socialist'. At its conference this month, the Labour Party busily invents new ways of enticing voters back to the faith which gave them the massive majority of 1945; that was when they had workers believing in the creation of a Brave New World.

Labour Party conferences are traditional affairs: the delegates call for radical change, the leaders politely humour them. When in office, there is talk of betrayal by the right wing leaders; when in opposition. Labour's record is recalled with glory and all social evils are attributed to the malice of the Tories. The naive radicals who still believe in Clause Four remind their comrades of the dangers of diversion, while many of their time serving comrades, grown fat from the trust of the ignorant, go through the ritual motions and look forward to the diversions of power. If the Labour Party is a church, it is one in which the rich and powerful leaders occupy the pulpit, the rank and file kneel down with their eyes closed, and the trade unions contribute generously to the collections.

Despite the failure of the six Labour governments to enact fundamental social change, there will inevitably be some Labourites who will plead with the conference that what is required is a radical economic programme. The left of the Labour Party maintain that their policies could tackle the problems facing the working class in Britain. Their economic programme rests upon three principles: that wealth can be redistributed so as to extensively erode, if not eradicate, social inequality; that state intervention — or even total control — in the economy would take power away from the capitalist minority and give it to the public; that social democracy (parliamentary reformism) will eventually break down the unequal structure of British society. The proponents of these principles argue that no Labour government has yet seriously applied them, but that if this happened the position of 'the ordinary people’ — a term which the Labour Party uses to describe its followers (perhaps not unrelated to the level of their awareness) — would be remarkably improved. The debate between the left and right is essentially about how much emphasis to give to these three principles.

The problem with both sides of Labour's economic debate is that they fail to locate the root of economic inequality. They are dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause, and so end up engaging in a futile effort to make the system run fairly; in fact it is running fairly insofar as it is a system which operates in the interests of those who own and control vast amounts of property.

The existence of the capitalist system is totally ignored by Labour economists. Failure to recognise capitalism leads to the ahistorical belief that the features of social organisation existing now can never be fundamentally altered. What are the features which constitute a capitalist system? Private ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution by members of a minority class; a condition of wage slavery for the majority of the population who must sell their labour power in order to live; production for the market with a view to profit; national boundaries, competition and war; the existence of a coercive state to defend private property. Wherever these features exist there is capitalism. Two questions must be answered. Does the economic programme of the Labour Party in any way affect the misery and inequality which are a consequence of capitalism? If not, what can? We can answer the first question by considering the three tenets of Labour's economic objective.

1. The redistribution of wealth
It is claimed that we live in a property-owning democracy. The following table, indicating the ownership of marketable wealth in terms of proportion of the population, shows the markedly undemocratic nature of wealth division under capitalism (see graph).

The line taken by the Labour Party is quite simple: wealth is unequally divided; what we must do is divide it up equally. Graduated income tax, subsidies to certain industries, and attempts to close the rift between high and low paid workers, have been the means the left has urged Labour governments to adopt. But these policies have failed: although there has been an apparent diffusion of wealth since the beginning of the century, the process has been one of redistribution within the capitalist class and within the working class. As Westergaard and Resler point out, the reason for the transfer of wealth ownership within the ruling class
. . . from the richest one per cent to those a little way down the scale from them is plain. The shift represents, primarily or even exclusively, the measures taken by the very rich to safeguard their wealth against taxation. Property which is transferred to relatives, or others, some time before the death of the original owner has not been liable to death duty. Protection of private wealth has therefore required — and produced — earlier divisions of large holdings of wealth among kinsfolk, with little effect on the social distribution of capital. (Class in a Capitalist Society)
Thus the redistribution of wealth at the top, which is the only significant redistribution to have taken place this century, has been a means of preserving rather than spreading the privilege of ownership. Indeed, the recently published report of the Royal Commission on the Distribution of Wealth and Income has shown that the top one percent actually owned a more concentrated section of accumulated wealth during the first three years of the last Labour government than they had done under Heath's Tory government.

As for the working class, their economic position has remained unaltered after six Labour governments. Although pay has increased and conditions are apparently better (although worse relative to the increased productivity of the working class over the last eighty years), workers have nothing for which to thank the Macdonalds, the Attlees, the Wilsons and the Callaghans. Workers still produce all the wealth of society in return for a wage or salary. Wages, being the price of labour power, rise and fall in rough correlation with other commodity prices.

Labour has failed to solve the problems which arise from the fact that approximately ninety per cent of the British population own ten per cent of the wealth. By choosing an arbitrarily determined line of poverty, Labour has attempted (unsuccessfully) to deal with the excesses of deprivation without facing the basic problem, which is the deprivation of the vast majority of the full fruits of their labour. The programme to reduce poverty is simply a redistribution of poverty within the working class. The Labour Party wants to make distribution ‘fair', while leaving the means of wealth production in the hands of a minority. Westergaard and Resler (whose book is to be highly recommended to readers seeking statistical information concerning the power structure in contemporary capitalism) are forced to conclude that despite claims that Labour would fundamentally redistribute wealth: 
Private capital is massively concentrated in the hands of a small minority, though it is now more widely dispersed within the families of the wealthy than in the past, as a protection against taxation. Some one per cent of the adult population have as large a share of wealth as the poorest thirty per cent or so. Two-fifths or more of their income comes from investments; a matter of little surprise, since they alone own about thirty per cent of all private wealth, and four-fifths of all company stock in personal hands. Private property, individual or corporate, is the pivot of a capitalist economy, as much in its ‘welfare' form as before. It is for that reason above all that, despite its expansion of production, capitalism can make no claim to a steadily more equal spread of wealth. Inequality is entrenched in its institutional structure.
2. Nationalisation and state subsidies
The argument for widespread nationalisation of industry which is frequently advanced by groups on the left of the Labour Party goes like this: inequality of wealth ownership results in a disparity of living standards; the state is the elected representative of the people; by nationalising industry, the people, through the state machine, would have control over industry; the result would be that the people in general, through their elected Members of Parliament, would control the economy. To thousands of radical labourites and trade unionists, the logic of this series of propositions seems compelling.

In fact, the argument rests upon several fallacious assumptions. The most serious is to imagine that the state represents the people who elect a government. This is entirely to disregard the existence of social class. Under capitalism, the state acts as the regulator of affairs for the capitalist class. The police, the army, the prisons, the courts, the schools, are paid for by the state, by the capitalists acting in their collective interest. State subsidies or ownership of industry have usually been imposed because private capitalists have called upon the rest of their class to collectively invest in a section of the economy. But it should be remembered that capitalists do not invest to provide services, employment or social harmony.

This leads to the second fallacy in the nationalisation argument. It is assumed that the state is able to be less concerned about profits than would a board of directors. In fact, all Nationalisation Acts contain clauses saying that profits must be made. And where there are profits there is exploitation. Whether workers are exploited by the state or by private capitalists makes little difference: wage labour equals exploitation for profit.

Thirdly, it is false to suggest that nationalisation dispossesses capitalists of power over the economy. All nationalisation has been based upon ‘fair compensation’ for the previous owners. Instead of depending upon the variations of share returns, the capitalist whose firm has been nationalised can rely upon the regular interest of state bonds for the rest of his parasitic life. Neither does nationalisation take away the capitalists’ control over industry. The boards of the nationalised industries are still dominated by members of the ruling class.

There is something of a myth that Labour is the party of nationalisation and that nationalisation is the central economic aim of socialists. Neither of these assumptions could be further from the truth. In the nineteenth century, both Liberal and Tory governments had a long record of nationalisation. No modem government could survive without intervening in industry, including the provision of subsidies and services. Sir Keith Joseph will learn this lesson, just as Edward Heath did when he subsidised Rolls Royce despite his brave words about not financing 'lame ducks'. Nationalisation has nothing to do with socialism: it is state capitalism.

A quarter of British workers are employed by the state. Are they better off than workers exploited in the private sector? In Russia and most of Eastern Europe the main sectors of the economy have been nationalised. Does production for human needs prevail in those countries, or is it not the case that profit is the motive for production there as it is in the West? British Rail is nominally publically owned. Ever tried travelling on one of the trains which you nominally possess without buying a ticket? That state control equals public control is a pernicious myth. The Labour Party is guilty of perpetuating it.

3. Social democracy
When Labourites claim to be social democrats it means that they are reformists looking towards Parliament to solve the ills of the capitalist system. The Labour Party’s reformism is an admission that it has failed to eradicate inequality either by redistributing wealth or by state intervention. Labour reforms are simply intended to make the poor less uncomfortable. It should also be borne in mind that welfare reform is neither a particular feature of Labour administrations, nor an act of benevolence by the state. All parties have initiated a certain degree of welfare reform. It is in the interest of the capitalist class to have a moderately healthy, educated, mobile working class. That it might also be in the temporary interest of the workers is no reason for supporting it. Reforms are not given as an act of charity by the ruling class, but are usually paid for by means of a general fall in wages. In short, welfare reforms usually involve a redistribution of wealth from one section of the working class to another.

Reformism marks an acquiescence in the present system of society. And if there is one thing no Labour Party conference will ever do. it is to break away from its reformist origins. The Labour Party may have started out with some ideals, but its history has been one of persistent betrayal of the working class.
Steve Coleman

Churches in retreat (1987)

From the February 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Christian churches in Britain have lost half a million members in the last five years. According to the UK Christian Handbook, Christian church membership has declined to under seven million people, which is about fifteen per cent of the population. But other religions have shown an increase. In particular the number of Muslims has increased by over a third to 852.000 and many churches have been converted into Mosques. Other religions to have increased their membership, on a smaller scale, were Sikhs. Hindus, Buddhists and Satanists while the number of Jews showed a slight decline.

Although there has been a change in the type of superstitious nonsense being peddled, on the whole religion is a very minor activity in Britain. There will be a greater number than the above who still profess a belief in a god of some kind but who don't want to be confined to the absurd behaviour patterns these churches demand.

In fact, Christianity has been in decline for some time. It has also continuously retreated from what it claims to be able to explain. At one time it said that the world was created by god in six days and that the sun revolved around the earth. Although there are still some who claim a literal translation of the bible, most Christians now accept the theory of evolution and other scientific facts. Instead they now try to stress the "symbolic" nature of god and the bible — how god is about love and kindness — and play down the roasting in Hell bit. Hardly a week goes by without some trendy bishop on the telly saying that religion is fun and positive and not about saying no to the things people enjoy.

The churches have always felt able to say that, despite god being all-powerful and creating the world (even if he used evolution to do it) when anything unpleasant happens it's always the fault of human beings. So he takes the credit for humanity at its best when we are being loving, kind, creative and successful. But when it comes to Hiroshima and Auschwitz, pyorrhoea and Aids it's got nothing to do with him - unless he is moving in mysterious ways.

Religious ideas and socialist ideas are incompatible. Socialism is about understanding the way society operates with a view to changing it. Religions preach submission, basically saying that a superior being controls our destiny and we must accept our lot. Such beliefs grew up to explain away large gaps in human knowledge. But as our knowledge has widened, the religious explanation is shown to be increasingly untenable.

The persistence of religious ideas can be understood against the background of an insecure world where, due to the class- divided nature of society, people feel powerless. Religion, with its promise of a pie-in-the-sky afterlife, may offer some hope and comfort. But as Marx said, "The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their condition is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions".

Religion has often been used by ruling classes to justify their dominance and the subjugation of the poor. Kings rule by the grace of god, it is supposedly ordained from on high. Often the first shock troops of the British Empire were the missionaries, who sought to convert the natives and teach them their proper (servile) place in the world.

The Catholic Church has made deals with fascist dictators in the past and is often a force for reaction in Latin America, although some priests have embraced "liberation theology", perhaps in an attempt to be on the right side of any new ruling class.

In Ireland, religion has been used to viciously divide workers to fight for their employers' interests, and many of the wars and disputes in the Middle East use religion and the idea of a holy war to get workers spilling each other s blood. Millions of deaths in capitalism's bloody wars have been blessed by religion.

Religious ideas are political and must be defeated. Only when workers are free from such illusion will be we able to set about the real task facing us, transforming the world into a place fit for people to live in. It is the only world we will get and we should make the most of it. And not let any trendy bishops or long-haired preachers get in our way.
Ian Ratcliffe

Brent (1987)

From the January 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Education — or rather schooling, for very little education takes place in schools despite the sincere efforts made by many teachers — is under attack once again from the media. This time the target is multi-cultural education in the London Borough of Brent. Recently, Brent advertised for a large number of teachers to be involved in setting up the Development Programme for Race Equality in Schools. Every school in Brent will have a senior member of staff responsible for implementing the programme. The project is funded by a Section II grant provided by the Home Office to areas with a large population of workers from the Commonwealth.

The tabloids eagerly published the news, giving readers the impression that their children's minds would soon be in the hands of Orwellian Thought Police, nicknamed Commissars. They also suggested that this would lead to a further decline in educational standards, particularly where white children are concerned. The so-called hard Left of the Labour council in Brent were blamed. The newspapers failed to note that events in Brent were in fact initiated by the previous Conservative council. They also failed to mention that these "commissars" are not very different from many teachers in other local authorities who work in the field of multi-cultural education.

Brent Council has only set a precedent in that it is using Section II money on a larger scale and in a more tightly organised manner. It is doing this to meet the recommendations recently put forward by several government reports on the effects of racism on the educational achievements of black children. Governments publish such reports on aspects of schooling at regular intervals to suggest that they take the subject of education seriously.

The media continually presents multi-cultural education as being a threat to both the education system and to society in general. Nothing could be further from the truth. Multi-cultural education is certainly not revolutionary in its aims and objectives. It is an educational reform that has developed in Britain over the past 20 years in response to the needs of Commonwealth immigrants who came to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. But what is it attempting to reform? Education in a capitalist society is not worthy of the name. It is merely schooling. Achievement is not measured in terms of the personal development of each individual through his or her lifetime. It is instead measured in terms of success or failure at public examinations. This success or failure determines the young worker's future value on the job market. A school is, at best, a kind of factory which produces workers to meet the needs of capitalist society. But this is only a secondary function. Primarily schools are places where the energy and enthusiasm for learning of large numbers of young people are frustrated.

By the mid 1960s it was becoming clear that some kind of special English language teaching provision was needed if children of black and Asian Commonwealth immigrants were to succeed and compete as equals with white children in the British school system and later on the labour market. This resulted in the establishment of Section II funding directly from the Home Office in 1966. This is still the main source of funding for multi-cultural education. The Section II regulations reflect the origins of multi cultural education and have not changed for 20 years. Local authorities applying for the grant need to show that they have a large population of Commonwealth immigrants whose language and customs differ greatly from those of the rest of the community. They need to show that this population has proportionately greater needs than the rest of the community. This means that a school in an area with a mainly white population cannot claim the grant. Workers whose salaries are funded by Section II have to be individually and directly accountable to the Home Office. For example, Section II teachers are asked at regular intervals to send details of their pupils and the level of their needs.

In the late 1960s it was simply assumed that once the Commonwealth immigrants had acquired full command of the English language and were fully assimilated into British culture, the problem would disappear. The problem did not disappear — it got worse. Research into the education system showed that a disproportionate number of West Indian children were failing in the school system. Black and Asian workers continued to suffer discrimination in the labour market and in fact in all other walks of life. This was accompanied by the focussing of white discontent into the growth of the National Front and other violent fascist organisations. It was becoming clear that merely providing language classes for people who by now were no longer immigrants but established members of the community was not the solution. If schools were to continue to function effectively, both black and white discontent must be contained.

It was recognised that black achievement within the school system would continue to be low as long as schools presented a narrow curriculum based only on the culture of white Britain. The culture and history of black workers was either ignored or presented as inferior. This had a detrimental effect on the self-esteem and confidence of young black pupils which, in turn, affected their achievement at school. Britain was becoming a multi-cultural society, it was argued, and the nature of that society must be presented in the school curriculum. This would also challenge the racism of young white people. Of course, from time to time this results in the kind of right-wing backlash recently demonstrated by the press response to Brent. Meanwhile some black people view the reforms as merely superficial — a propaganda exercise aimed more at containing their discontent than with eradicating racism.

Multi-cultural education continues to miss several important facts about schools. Firstly, it is not only black children who fail at school. A significant number of children fail to pass any exams. Secondly, all school subjects, whether they take into account a child's cultural background or not. are forced down reluctant throats and so are hardly likely to be educative. In spite of the efforts of inspired teachers committed to education, at school children learn only how to accept oppression and how to compete rather than co-operate with their fellow human beings.

But the struggle to reform the school system continues and is growing more organised, as recent events in Brent show. Yet it is no more enlightened. However, it would be wrong to present a completely bleak view of multi-cultural education. It has stimulated much interest and research into language and culture. Information on African, Caribbean and Asian literature and history is increasingly accessible. There are also growing numbers of teachers who are opposed to racism and to giving all children access to a meaningful education. However, their energies are sadly misdirected in institutions where education rarely takes place. It is only when they challenge the existence of schools and the social system that produces such institutions that an atmosphere will be created where meaningful education can take place.
Kerima Mohideen

Left is not right (1986)

Book Review from the December 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marxism and the French Left by Tony Judt (Clarendon Press).

In this book, Tony Judt describes how the ideas, aims and methods of organisations belonging to the "French Left" have changed in the course of 150 years. He defines what he means by "Left", it was, he says, "to be Republican, Radical, Socialist, or Communist at different times (or at the same time in different places)" — all of them with roots in the French Revolution.

With this as his starting point he draws a number of distinctions between the experience of workers' political and trade union movements in France. Britain. Germany and other countries. For example he says:
Whereas in Germany, or (especially) in Britain experience in the union movement was often a safe path to a successful parliamentary career, in France there was no such relationship.
And that in France, changes which took place in the years 1850-1870.
favoured the emergence of two sorts of collective action by the working population the development of the associational traditions of the mutual aid societies and workers' co-operatives on the one hand, collective protests (strikes) on the other.
Except that trade unions and strikes were a feature in Britain long before 1850, the above statement was equally true of British workers.

Judt also describes the innumerable splits, regroupings and formulations of allegedly new policies by the various parties in France over the years. He could have found the same in Britain. But at the end of the day, what does it all amount to? While the self-styled "Left" in Britain does not hark back to the French Revolution, that useless term is just as vague in its usage in Britain as in France. The politicians and the media habitually discover a "left wing" in all the parties. Tory. Labour and Alliance.

Notwithstanding variations in their historical origins there are no essential differences between the modern British Labour Party and its opposite numbers in Italy, France and Germany. Indeed the author himself says that the French "Socialist” party differed no more from the German party than did the latter from the Italian party or either from the British Labour Party. t

All these parties, and similar ones in other countries, share a common belief in their ability to run capitalism better than the other, avowedly capitalist, parties. In particular they claim to be able to maintain full employment, avoid depressions and raise workers' living standards. But capitalism cannot be controlled. In Australia the Labour government ran into a trade crisis and has informed the workers that their standard of living has to be reduced. In Spain unemployment rocketed under a "socialist" government, as it also did in France following the victory in 1981 of the French "Socialist" Party. In Britain the 1974 Labour government also ran into a crisis, had to borrow heavily from the International Monetary Fund, and saw unemployment rise from 600,000 to 1,300,000.

There are other similarities We are told that for French "socialism" the year 1981 “was their finest hour". The new government nationalised a number of industries, as did the British Labour government at the time of its "finest hour" in 1945. Now in both countries the workers have elected Conservative governments, busily engaged in "privatisation" of nationalised industries. Neither nationalisation nor privatisation matter to the working class.

One purpose of Judt's book is to show the failure of "Marxism". What he understands by "Marxism" takes in the nineteenth century social democratic parties, the parties in the Russian-dominated Third International, and the parties, like the Austrian party and the British Independent Labour Party in the so-called Second International. He ends with the statement that "so far as Marxism is concerned the only practically existing form of it is still that in force in Communist Regimes" He makes no attempt to justify his claim that they are "communist" that is. advocates of communal, or social, ownership of the means of production and distribution, of a classless, moneyless society where everyone has free access to wealth.

The book contains numerous references to the British Labour Party and the Independent Labour Party (now defunct), but no mention of the Socialist Party of Great Britain and its distinctive and unique principle of a socialist working class seeking power, not at all for the purpose of reforming capitalism, but solely to abolish capitalism and establish socialism.

It is only by ignoring the history of the professedly Marxist Social Democratic Federation and of the eventual breakaway by some members to found the Socialist Party of Great Britain that the author can say that there are, in Britain, "no indigenous Marxist traditions"
Edgar Hardcastle

Burn-up (1986)

Book Review from the November 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Smoke Ring - the politics of tobacco. Peter Taylor (The Bodley Head. £9.95)

Peter Taylor's book reveals that it is not only the smokers' vision that is affected by smoking tobacco, but their health in general. He supports this serious charge with an impressive array of quotations from many eminent medical authorities, such as The World Health Organisation. Britain's Royal College of Surgeons and the US Surgeon General. The latter is quoted as saying: "The evidence that smoking greatly increases the incidence of lung cancer is now irrefutable" (The Health Consequences of Smoking. Cancer - Report of the Surgeon General 1980. p.7. US Department of Health). The section dealing with health is a vital part of this book, but that is not all.

Of equal importance. Taylor reveals in great detail the relationship between governments and the tobacco industry and the political conflict between wealth and health, which is as old as tobacco itself. Throughout history governments have condemned tobacco while rubbing their hands at the money it brings in to their treasuries. King James of England, in 1603. described smoking in A Counter-Blaste to Tobacco as "a custom loathsome to the eye. hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs". He increased the tax on tobacco by 4.000 per cent from 2d (1p) a pound to 6s.8d (34p). Finding that the much needed revenue from tobacco was not coming in, for the simple reason that people could not afford to smoke, he then slashed the tax to 2s.0d (10p) a pound and money poured into the Royal coffers. Governments have followed a similar policy ever since. The 1981 Budget showed tobacco as the government's third biggest source of consumer revenue: £11bn came from VAT. £3.6bn from hydrocarbon oil and £2.8bn from tobacco.

The Royal College of Physicians are aware of the conflict between wealth and health. In their 1971 Report Smoking and Health Now they say:
It appears that the Government's failure to take any effective preventative action is based on the fear that the country can neither afford nor lose revenue derived from tobacco taxation, nor tolerate the economic consequences of running down the tobacco industry Unofficial assessment, however, suggests that this fear might be mistaken.
However the author goes on to say that in purely economic terms, the political benefits of cigarettes far outweigh their social cost (in Britain, for example, revenue from cigarettes brings the Treasury over £4bn a year). Cigarette related diseases cost the NHS a tiny fraction of that; in direct costs £165m a year. Wealth beats health every time.

The tobacco industry inevitably draws the trade unionists employed within it into the political battle. Tobacco workers have a long tradition of militancy, going back to the 19th century when cigar workers fought for equal pay for women employed in the industry The Tobacco Workers Union has always supported "progressive causes" It was one of the founders of CND and the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Charles Greive, their general secretary, did not recognise any contradiction between fighting for these "progressive causes" and fighting to preserve the tobacco industry. He said the union had a duty to represent the interests of its members — which, while correct, also shows the limitations and problems of trade union action under capitalism.

Despite the views of the Tobacco Workers' Union, the TUC has taken a strong anti-smoking line. In 1981. as a result of a resolution passed at its Annual Conference, its Social Insurance and Industrial Welfare Committee drew up a confidential document entitled Smoking and Health. This Committee reported that more working days were lost through smoking than through industrial action. The issue was of concern to trade unionists because 56 per cent of smokers were unskilled manual workers and they recommended a smoking control programme. In the meantime, the Tobacco Workers' Union got hold of a copy of the TUC Committee's document and were angry that they had not been consulted. They dismissed the document as "little more than a rehash of propaganda". They believed it was an attack on the tobacco industry which endangered their members' jobs. However in September 1982 the Committee's document became official TUC policy. It was a notable victory for the Health lobby and their supporters within the movement. The jobs at risk were only a handful of the TUC's 12 million members, there was no revenue involved and the tobacco industry has few friends within the TUC. So for once, at least, health had had a clear run — until it ran into Labour Party politics:
The Health campaigners had every reason to believe that the Labour Party would include a clear statement of its intent to ban cigarette advertising in the Health Policy document it drew up for the 1983 election. They were disappointed. There was no reference to legislation, only a promise to act" although Labour's Shadow Health Secretary Gwynneth "Gunboat" Dunwoody was personally committed to banning all cigarette advertising "If I'm Minister there will be direct action" she assured me . . .
It was perhaps fortunate for Dunwoody that Labour lost the general election in 1983, which meant that she never had the opportunity to translate her words into deeds for, as Taylor relates, on a recent occasion a British Health Minister committed to taking political action against the tobacco industry was moved away from his department. This book is a comprehensive study of the tactics and strategy of six multi-national tobacco giants, showing their considerable economic power and enormous political influence. It exposes (he extensive wheeling and dealing in the "market" — a place where human life itself is second only to profit.
Wally Preston

Round the horn (1986)

Book Review from the November 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Preston King. An African Winter (Penguin, 1986) 

The area occupied by Sudan and Ethiopia became a focus of world attention as a result of the recent drought and famine. This study attempts to analyse the problems suffered by these countries and by Africa as a whole as it competes in the world of international capitalism. The various states suffer from many problems, not least in relation to their former colonial rulers. Added to this is a climate of devastating heat and uncertain rain with the threat of pest devastation. If that were not sufficient, these problems are further exacerbated by eruptions of conflict between and within the African states.

Ironically, if we examine infant mortality rates they compare with those in Europe and America at the turn of the century, as King points out:
the major infant killers in New York. Birmingham and Paris eighty-five years ago were those which now scissor their way through Addis Ababa. Nairobi. N'Djamena and the so-called Homelands of South Africa, (p.35)
These include diarrhoea, pneumonia, bronchitis and infections such as tuberculosis. The famine in Ethiopia that received international attention after October 1984 caused a massive influx of aid. Yet that attenuation of human misery did not relieve the underlying causes of the misery. There are also political considerations affecting how and why aid is granted. The establishment of the regime of Colonel Mengistu in 1974 after the overthrow of Haile Selassie, led to shift in support from American and the EEC to Soviet sources. Ethiopia has also suffered from an internal conflict with Eritrea which it absorbed in 1962 after federation with Ethiopia had been established by UN charter in 1952. After 1975 there was a revolt in Tigray province on the southern border of Eritrea. Ethiopia suffered from military incursions by the Somalis especially into Ogaden. It is these conflicts that have absorbed the energies of Mengistu's government. During the period 1977- 79 it is estimated that debts of some US $2 billion were owed to Russia for armaments — debts which it could not possibly meet. King argues that "Ethiopians are dying in the north because combatants on both sides place a higher value upon future political structures than upon immediate human suffering" (p.64). It is not simply the internal war over who will achieve political supremacy that is the problem but also a conflict within the Horn of Africa between the rivalry of America and Russia "to demonstrate which of the superpowers is blessed with the more powerful musculature" (p.64). In the nineteenth century the same conflict had occurred between France and Britain.

The Horn juts into a region containing the world's major oil reserves. Sudan and Ethiopia may have extensive reserves themselves. The Horn also represents a major strategic area for both America and Russia as well as being adjacent to the important transport routes of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. It is little wonder that when drought and famine occur, there is a limited capacity for response. The absurdity of this situation is pinpointed by King when discussing the Somali-Ethiopia conflict:
the 1977-8 war could not have been fought had the modem weaponry not been so indulgently supplied. The Americans (after the Second World War) first armed the Ethiopians; then the Soviets (after 1963) armed the Somalis; then the Somalis (1964 and 1977) attacked the Ethiopians; during which the Soviets re-armed the Ethiopians; after which the Americans and their allies re-armed the Somalis, (p. 116)
Even where a country has been funded for development purposes the problems of international finance can have disastrous consequences. By 1985 Sudan's debt was $11 billion representing $500 per head of population in a country whose GNP per capita was less than $400. The IMF's typical response was to suggest austerity measures.

It is no coincidence that Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia have doubled as theatres of war and famine. In 1985 the government of Siad Barre spent 65 per cent of its budget on military expenditure. The Somali government has pursued a policy of absorbing neighbouring territories inhabited by people whom it sees as having a Somali identity, regardless of the national barriers arbitrarily imposed by the former colonial powers. Somalia has courted aid from various sources as was seen above. For Russia it is reported that in return for military aid they were granted unrestricted access to Somali airfields which would allow reconnaissance over the Indian Ocean. Since 1980 the United States have been offered the use of Soviet built air and naval bases at Barbera for their Rapid Deployment Force.

The double standard involved in the conflicts within the Horn over autonomy and independence fail to recognise the dependency on foreign aid and on the very fact of having to exist in modern capitalism. The fuelling of nationalistic claims is contrary to the international nature of capital. Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia waste precious energies upon causes which have little benefit for the inhabitants of those countries. Rather they exacerbate the inability to cope with natural disasters that periodically occur. For the superpowers it is a battle to achieve spheres of influence again with scant regard for the needs of the indigenous populations.

The world is economically interdependent and for King this emphasises the waywardness of pursuing nationalistic imperatives. He seems to have a view of a one-world capitalist system which could be of benefit to the emerging African states through such multi-national organisations as the UN. He wishes to see a system whereby the poorer states can exercise more control over their lives and this would involve equalising power between rich and poor states:
there are various measures which can be pursued — liberalizing trade, providing greater aid., stabilizing commodity prices, stabilizing arrangements with multi-nationals, increasing investment in Third World agricultural and industrial development — which in fact should prove mutually beneficial to Africa and the North. (p.211)
Yet this flies in the face of all the evidence he has previously presented of an essentially competitive world in which conflict is endemic. His warnings about nuclear armageddon or ecological collapse are real threats and point to the need for an alternative future, but his view is limited and this he admits when he accepts that "development — meaning the achievement of greater equality between nations — will most certainly not end all inequity, brutality, exploitation and the rest. But there is no alternative" (p.221). His programme is to offer alternative relative poverty. He admits that the difference between poor and rich in developing and developed nations is little different in that "the domestic gap between rich and poor within developing states is on average no more than 4 per cent greater than within developed states" (p.220) but argues that the relative standards of living would see an actual improvement for the "third world" nations.

What King fails to extrapolate from his evidence are the possibilities inherent within technology and world resources for a radical alternative future. This is not based on the pious hope of a transformed. caring capitalism, which even King admits is untenable. King wants democracy so that the needs of individuals can be met. but this notion is not consistent with capitalism. It is only when we begin with the desire to fulfil the needs of individuals that the transformation of society can begin and the inequalities and impoverishment imposed by capitalism be removed.
Philip Bentley

Letter from Denmark (1986)

From the October 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Copenhagen in summer is a pleasant place. On sunny afternoons the old part of the city centre, closed to traffic, is crowded with people, sitting, strolling, shopping, talking. Wander through the cobbled squares, past fountains and gracious old buildings and you will find people gathered together to listen to street musicians, sitting in outdoor cafes drinking beer and talking, or playing chess. The shops are full of attractive clothes, shoes, and wooden furniture combining the natural materials and stream-lined design typical of Scandinavia. Despite what to the English observer seem to be very high prices, the shops don't appear to lack customers. There is an air of efficiency about Denmark: for a large city the streets are clean; houses seem attractive and well-maintained; public buildings show none of the signs of decay that can be found in them in Britain. Even the social security office is carpeted and has potted plants around the place. Things seem to work in Denmark.

At weekends if you leave the city you will find yourself in the company of many other city dwellers who are off to their summer houses in the country or on the coast, or to go sailing or wind surfing on one of Denmark's many lakes, or for a bicycle ride along specially constructed cycle paths through forests and past the traditional saffron-coloured stone farmhouses of the villages. Or maybe they're on their way to their kolonihave hus — a peculiarly Danish institution. To compensate for living in city centre flats with no gardens. many Danes own small plots of land in the suburbs or just outside the city limits, which they cultivate as flower or vegetable gardens. Most have a small wooden house there which is equipped with most basic amenities. Many city dwellers leave their flats behind in the summer and move out to these more congenial surroundings.

Sexual equality seems to have advanced much further here than in England. The state provides nurseries to care for children, even the very young, thus enabling mothers to go out to work. There are play centres — fritidshjem — that children can attend after school until their parents get home from work. Equal pay legislation seems to be rigorously enforced. Sex roles are apparently less rigid: men pushing prams along the street appear less self-conscious than in Britain; I've seen men, apparently unperturbed and with no-one else paying much attention, knitting in trains.

If you talk to many Danes this impression of a happy, healthy, efficient society will be confirmed. They will proudly show you their houses fitted out with attractive modern furniture. equipped with modern kitchens and even, perhaps, a sauna. They will show you on a map of Denmark where their summer house is situated — not too far away, just a comfortable drive in the Volvo or BMW that sits in the drive. You will quickly become aware that the standard of living and wages are relatively high in Denmark and that this is the pay-off to workers for cooperative labour relations. Mothers are entitled to three months' paid leave on the birth of a child; they receive reasonable child-allowance; their children can attend a nursery so that women can return to work quickly; at seven when children start school, they will enjoy the most modern "pupil-centred" teaching methods; the majority of children, although they can leave school at sixteen, will stay on until 17 or 18. For those who do leave earlier there are a range of apprenticeships and vocational training schemes on offer. For the 10 per cent of the work force who are unemployed, unemployment benefit is available, paid at a considerably higher level than in Britain. But should problems of one kind or another develop then the social services are ready to step in and take control of the situation until the problem is resolved.

The proud Dane might also draw your attention to the country's liberal constitution. Denmark is Europe's oldest kingdom and. prior to the granting of the first liberal constitution in 1849, it was ruled by an absolute monarch. However, when the time came for change, the monarchy gave up without a fight. No need for anything as messy as a revolution to establish parliamentary democracy. Since 1953, when the constitution was amended, the Folketing, or Danish Parliament, has functioned pretty much like the House of Commons. The Danes pride themselves on having one of the most complicated systems of Proportional Representation in the world. The intention is that parties are represented in the Folketing in exact proportion to the percentage of votes they receive. But in order to stop too many small parties securing representation and making it difficult to form a stable coalition government, a party must have got at least 2 per cent of the total votes cast before it is allowed representation. But, as just about any Dane will tell you, they hardly notice when there is a change of government. Life goes on in much the same way whether it is the Conservative party that is the biggest party in the coalition, or the Social Democrats. And things don't alter all that much whether the coalition partners come from the Radical Liberal party, the Liberal party, the Socialist People's party, the Independents, the Left-Wing Socialists, the Communists, or the Progress Party - all of which have had representation in recent years.

Denmark certainly does seem to be a model liberal social democratic welfare state. So why then is it that at almost any hour of the day and night, drunks can be found reeling along Copenhagen’s attractive streets? Why in the city's squares can you see teenagers dressed in the tattered uniform of the punks and demonstrating the same signs of nihilism and self-destruction that seem to be their hallmark? Why is it that Denmark's comprehensive social services don't seem to be able to offer a solution to these social problems? And why is it that the Turkish workers who come to Denmark to find employment live in conditions that are worse than those of most Danes? Not for them the modern apartments and stripped pine furniture. or the summer house in the country. Why is it that displaced young people from Denmark's former colony on the island of Greenland, attracted to Copenhagen by the prospect of work and city life, are so prone to violence and drunkenness? Doesn't "social democracy" have anything to offer them? How could it be that the image of social cohesion that Denmark likes to project was shattered last year when a bomb blew up a synagogue? And what about Denmark's reputation as a liberal and tolerant haven for those seeking to escape persecution and repression in their own countries? Can that survive in the wake of recent changes in policy restricting the numbers of immigrants - refugees or otherwise? Why, if this is the best of all social democratic worlds, do so many people seem to want to opt out of it in one way or another? Some try to go back to a mythical golden age of rural simplicity by returning to the land and living in organic farming cooperatives; others build boats and. in true Viking fashion, set sail around the world; many young people join one of the eastern mystical religious sects that flourish here as in any other European city, preying on the loneliness and despair of the young; others opt out through drugs and drink, and some do so permanently through accidental death or deliberate suicide.

Why, if this is such a harmonious society, are the police armed, and why have I heard stories of police brutality that are curiously reminiscent of those told to me about the Met? Why are there demonstrations about the nuclear power station just across the water on the Swedish coast, closer to Copenhagen than to Stockholm? Denmark itself is. after all, a "nuclear-free zone". Why is the graffiti on the walls all negative? Why, instead, doesn't it extol the virtues of "social democracy" that provides the people with the liberty to spray paint on walls (provided, of course, the police don't spot them)? Why is the "welfare state" under attack? Why are concerned parents now wondering whether it really is such a good idea to leave their toddlers in a nursery from seven in the morning until five in the evening just so that both parents can work full time to earn the money which pays for the house, the car, the summer house and so on? Why at five o'clock in the afternoon do you see the same grey faces emerging from offices and factories, boarding trains and buses, riding their bicycles wearily, loaded down with shopping and a child collected from the nursery? Why do they so often have the tense, lifeless expression worn by workers all over the world at the end of another working day?

Why, in other words, does Denmark despite its high standard of living, its efficient system of welfare and "social democratic" constitution exhibit the same stresses and strains, conflicts and contradictions, unhappiness and unfulfilled lives that can be found in any capitalist state? Could it be that "social democracy" doesn't live up to its own propaganda and that capitalism is capitalism no matter how efficient the welfare state, how high the standard of living or how liberal the constitution?
Janie Percy-Smith

Life at the Little Chef (1986)

A Short Story from the September 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Get a job during the summer, my careers officer told me. Said it would improve my future employability if I showed I was always willing to work. Well, I wasn't sure about that but I did know I needed the money. So as my local motorway service station took on extra staff during the summer months, I telephoned the personnel department there. The service station is owned by the mega hotel and catering company Trust House Forte.

In my two hour induction (or indoctrination) session 1 learned more. The training officer talked much about the need for discipline among the staff and the "philosophy of the company". Equality of opportunity regardless of race or sex was bottom of the list of priorities. Trust House Forte has done so well in the service station type of catering that it now opens one Little Chef nationally every fortnight. The term they use for this is “popular catering", which really means the working-class feeding needs. As it turned out I was to work in the stores in the 7am to 3pm shift, unloading deliveries and shifting them to other workers in the station.

I have been a socialist for a few years now and I have been fortunate in that up to now I have not had to sell my working ability in the long-term. Although I heard and read about the catering trade I did not understand the chaos of such work until I experienced it first hand. Tales of lack of hygiene did not really strike me until 1 actually saw bread rolls and cakes being picked up off the floor and put back onto trays. Not that the staff were to blame. For a start, any food that is not used is a loss of potential profit and management did not take kindly to food that was wasted. Under that pressure the staff were always willing to cut a corner.

However, the main reason for poor standards was understaffing. In an attempt to achieve a higher rate of profit Trust House Forte employed as few workers as possible to lower their wage bill and reduce overall costs. Despite the unsociable shift work of early mornings and late evenings, and work at the weekends, there are plenty of unemployed people in my area who could help to run the station more efficiently if they had the chance. But those workers who did have the chance of work in the service station had to work doubly hard to make up for the lack of labour that Trust House Forte claim they cannot afford to employ. One of the two Little Chef restaurants had to close one day simply because there was not enough staff to run the place. In my department there were only two storemen when there should have been three. This made my work more demanding than it need be.

In such conditions workers cannot be expected to be at their best. A lot of my workmates there were not long out of school and disillusioned with the work that they had found. To be sure, they did not use words like exploitation and alienation, but they knew that they were being used for someone else's gain, and they knew that they had no control over their work and little pleasure in it. Once this was realised they were certainly not eager to be efficient in their work or polite to the customers. Although nagged by managers, breaks were extended as long as possible. I was surprised that the staff did not rebel even more. Perhaps that was because of the strict rules that the workers had to obey and because, despite the lack of fulfilment in their work, it was still better than the dole. I heard one manager say this to a delivery driver: "We make halfpenny profit on every £1 of goods we sell yet Trust House Forte catering still made a profit last year of £ 130 million, and our manual staff are paid £1.90 an hour for unsociable hours. It's robbery".

The workers under the hardest pressure at the station were the managers. Instructed by outside bosses to make a certain level of profit, they knew that their jobs would be on the line if they failed. Under this pressure managers would harass the staff below them, search for lower costs by cutting corners in how the station was run. The Ministry of Transport lays down standards for service stations to maintain but in reality these standards are always threatened by the need of the company to make a profit. On one staff noticeboard this message was posted: "Last week's profit was very poor. We must all try to improve We need a big gross profit this week."

Next to this was an incentive competition to try to increase production and efficiency among the workforce by offering awards for the most productive.

Everyone working at the station had to wear a uniform. THF was initialled onto our clothes and all the males had to wear ties, even though it was unpractical for my work in the store. All the permanent staff also had name badges pinned on their clothes. One worker sardonically remarked. “This is a prison sentence, we shouldn't have names on our clothes but numbers. I used to be conscientious but now I'm just unconscious".

It should not be assumed that this atmosphere was confined to the catering business. Working in the stores I had to help unload deliveries and in doing so witnessed the hectic schedule that delivery drivers had to face. The whole chain of production and distribution is dominated by the need to make and transport goods as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

A couple of weeks of the place was all I could stand. I am lucky since I have a place in college but most of the permanent workers there knew that they had little future in what they were doing and this was reflected in their attitude to their work. On my last day one of my workmates exclaimed this to me after watching me unload another straining delivery,

"Like slavery isn't it?"

"Yeah." I replied. "Wage slavery.”

"Too right", he answered.
Gareth Morgan